I work at a large HEI with diverse group of students with different cultural and academic background. Some of these students come from traditional GCSE to A ‘level routes, some come from BTEC background, a few are what we term ’mature’ students who may have different academic background. Quite a few are international oversea students.
What this means is that at any one of classes, there will be students with differing background knowledge or experience in the subject that is being taught. This creates an interesting/challenging scenario depending on the perspective of the person taking the class. It is easier and tempting to target your teaching to a particular set of ability as then you ‘cover’ all eventualities. However, if you are not careful this type of one-fits-all teaching can create groups of students who become disengaged. This manifests as chatting, not paying attention or worse not attending classes in some extreme cases. As a teacher nothing disheartens you more than classes that don’t pay attention and noise level getting a bit too high…
I was one of those teachers who used to moan to colleagues about noise levels and worse still I used to get put off if the attendance dropped below a certain level, taking it as an insult to my effort to teach them! In other words, I was making it personal, this then perpetuates as a comment such as ‘They don’t pay any attention in my class’, ‘They don’t turn up to my classes.’ etc. etc. I decided that this was NOT the way I wanted to be, so I applied the SEJ process to these thoughts. The regulation I received was staggeringly obvious ‘I don’t pay attention to them’ ‘I don’t turn up fully engaged’ it was a shock, but boy did I laugh at my thoughts!!! Through the SEJ process it was shown how far I was removed from seeing the truth. I was the one avoiding the students, and I was the one not being engaged with them.
So now that I can see clearly it was a matter of what can I do to be fully engaged and interested in where they were coming from. This simple but effective application of the SEJ changed my perspective and approach to teaching from where the students are rather than from where I was. Teaching is not a personal matter of being liked or being popular, sometimes I would be setting boundaries and indeed I need to do so, in order to keep them safe. Inevitably I will say no to some students’ requests.
If I see students talking, or rather if I am having a reaction to them talking; if the attendance drops, or rather I am getting frustrated by that, surely it is a warning sign that I need to be paying attention to my thoughts and applying the SEJ. That way I have no time to worry whether I am liked or being popular, I am far too busy practicing the SEJ!
Dr M Howard-Kishi